Irish barristers to strike again over criminal legal aid fees

Irish barristers to strike again over criminal legal aid fees

Criminal barristers in Ireland are planning another strike this month due to the government’s failure to review their fee levels as promised.

This follows last year’s unprecedented one-day strike on October 3rd , orchestrated by the Bar Council, which pressured government officials into negotiations.

The Irish government agreed to increase fees of criminal barristers and solicitors by 10% in the budget following the initial walk out, as well as committing to a review process looking at the infrastructure and level of fees paid.

However, the Council of The Bar of Ireland – the country’s representative body for barristers – said that even with the 10% fees increase, cuts applied to the public sector in the financial crisis continue to apply to the profession.

The representative body also claimed that the review process has not begun and there is growing frustration among criminal law practitioners.

They have said they will be notifying the government that criminal law practitioners across Ireland plan to strike on Tuesday 9th July, Monday 15th July and Wednesday 24th July.

Chair of the Council of the Bar of Ireland, Senior Counsel Sara Phelan, said that the body had been willing to wait until the end of July for action to commence on the promised review, but growing frustrations have forced the hand of criminal practitioners nationwide.

She said that barristers were looking only for fairness, and that they regretted having to take action. She stated:

“We're not comfortable with the fact that two-thirds of barristers that practice criminal law leave that area of practice within six years of commencing it.”

Senior Counsel Seán Guerin, who is Chair of the Criminal State Bar committee, said they had been left with no choice but to take the action.

The Government had acknowledged there was no good reason why fees should not be restored, he said, and yet no meaningful progress had been made.

He stated that targeting the Bar poses a "fundamental threat to the integrity of the criminal justice system" and is already causing problems with the recruitment and retention of barristers.

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